First Look: King Crimson Live

Reporting From The Frontline At Last Night's King Crimson Show In America

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Since Robert Fripp announced the return King Crimson last year, speculation has been rife among Crimheads as to what this completely reconfigured line-up had planned.

Tonight we found out. The seven-piece band completely retooled and upgraded a clutch of Crim classics, blowing the dust of material that went all the way back to 1969. No mere run through the old hits, tracks such as The Sailor’s Tale (not heard since 1972) and One More Red Nightmare (never previously performed live) bristled with life and startling vigour that frankly blew the original material out of the water.

Oh, and they smiled. A lot!/o:p


Filled to capacity with fans from far and wide (one guy made it from Australia just to be here), a taped intro from the band played over the PA, urging everyone to put down their cameras and phones and be part of something real - “be in the moment with us” they urged the audience on, and when they came on stage to tremendous applause and near-delirious cheering they did just that, falling silent as the band waited for the moment to begin - a sold-out auditorium and you could have heard a pin drop. The silence between band and crowd was something magical and formed the perfect set-up for Larks’ Tongues In Aspic Part I. The track is emblematic of the night as a whole; bulldozing riffs, searing musically and moments of surprising exquisite tenderness. /o:p


Looking dapper in suits and ties, are clearly having a ball after weeks of rehearsals, they were loving being on stage. Given the fiendish complexities, it’s all underpinned by a surprisingly obvious and simple truth; good music needs no gimmicks, pyrotechnics, or theatricality./o:p

Drummers Pat Mastelotto, Bill Rieflin and Gavin Harrison bring a careful choreography as they distribute the beats between each other with astonishing precision. If you closed your eyes you’d never know there were three players such is their cohesion. The back line of Mel Collins (sax), Tony Levin (bass and vocals), Jakko Jakszyk (guitar and vocals) and Robert Fripp (guitar and mellotron) occupied the raised stage behind, were just as impressive and integrated. /o:p


The inclusion of Mel Collins is a revelation. Blasting baritone sax through the slalom riffs of Vrooom and Red, his presence blows away the monochrome tyranny of the interlocking guitar parts dominating Crimson’s soundworld since the 1980s with a riot of effusive colour. Ditto Jakko Jakszyk’s guitar playing, who more than holds his own alongside a smiling Robert Fripp. Yes, you read that right. The appearance of Starless delivered a truly stunning climax that cracked the place apart. /o:p


This is King Crimson rejuvenated. A band that’s clearly overjoyed to be reconnected to its past repertoire but not in any beholden to it or defined by it. Hints of new directions are seeded throughout tonight, giving the impression that they can go anywhere they damn well please. Nothing is out of bounds to these players./o:p

Full setlist:

Larks’ Tongues In Aspic Part I

Pictures Of A City/o:p

A Scarcity Of Miracles/o:p

ConstruKction Of Light

One More Red Nightmare/o:p

Interlude /o:p

Hell Hounds/o:p


The Letters/o:p


Hells Bells/o:p

The Sailor’s Tale/o:p

The Light Of Day/o:p

The Talking Drum/o:p

Larks’ Tongues In Aspic PtII/o:p


Hoo Doo/o:p

21st Century Schizoid Man/o:p

Sid Smith

Sid's feature articles and reviews have appeared in numerous publications including Prog, Classic Rock, Record Collector, Q, Mojo and Uncut. A full-time freelance writer with hundreds of sleevenotes and essays for both indie and major record labels to his credit, his book, In The Court Of King Crimson, an acclaimed biography of King Crimson, was substantially revised and expanded in 2019 to coincide with the band’s 50th Anniversary. Alongside appearances on radio and TV, he has lectured on jazz and progressive music in the UK and Europe.  

A resident of Whitley Bay in north-east England, he spends far too much time posting photographs of LPs he's listening to on Twitter and Facebook.